The left can nearly always be relied upon to recognize a new and unprecedented situation when it arises, and to propose that it be met resolutely and “creatively,” as it likes to say. The exceptions come when holding fast to the status quo and “backing down from a challenge” are in its interest.
An illustrative case in point is the arrival of caravans on America’s southwest border, whose members are demanding that the United States give them more or less immediate asylum, or suffer the consequences: thousands of foreigners charging the border patrol under the flags of their home countries. Just as the arrival of the Haitian boat people in Guantanamo in 1991 recalled the Mariel boatlift from Cuba in 1980, so “the Caravan” ought to recall both. The Mariel crisis occurred during the Cold War, so the majority of the Marielitos, in flight from Castro’s brutal dictatorship, could make a plausible claim to be refugees, whatever their economic circumstances (though many of them on their arrival in Florida complained only of food rationing and wilted vegetables on the home island). Even so, President Carter’s response to the complex situation was complex itself. Far from rushing to declare 120,000 people legal refugees, he attempted to discriminate among the arrivals and, though all but about 25,000 Cubans were guaranteed permanent refugee status, final settlement was postponed until 1985. In the case of the Haitians, President Bush ordered the U.S. Coast Guard to return them all to their native country, a policy continued by President Clinton, who further instructed the USCG to intercept boats on the high seas. All this contrasts starkly with the Democratic and liberal assumption today that the “Caravaners” are—each and every one of them—patently entitled to refugee status with as little scrutiny and delay as possible, and admitted to the country forthwith.
The truth is that neither the Marielitos nor the Haitian boat people provide a precedent for the Caravaners, who are part of a force carefully organized and orchestrated by activists (some of whom are apparently of international provenance) to demonstrate to the United States—and to the world—that the Western nations are incapable of resisting aggressive international migration (i.e., invasion) from the Third World and that, indeed, they will be better off not trying to do so. And as the Caravan is unprecedented, so is its effect on the body of American (and international) asylum law, whose framers never anticipated such a situation as it presents. It is necessary that President Trump should declare a national emergency and his administration’s attorneys be instructed to discover some constitutional pretext to suspend current asylum law until a legal substitute adequate to the challenge can be developed.